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This article was brought to you together with J. Michael Palermo IV, Senior Manager Developer Advocacy at Okta. Check his LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/palermo4/
The first 30 days in a new DevRel role can be both exciting and overwhelming. There's so much to learn and so many people to meet. But it's also a time of great opportunity.
This is your chance to make a good impression and set the tone for your career in DevRel. Read this article to learn a few things to keep in mind as you start your new role.
What is the role of Developer Relations Manager?
Developer Relations is an umbrella term for everything related to enable developers, your users, to be successful with your product.
It can include, but is not limited, to developer marketing, managing developer community, developer education, developer experience, preparing documentation, writing technical content, helping to find product-market fit by working with product team, and much more.
As you can see, job description for DevRel Manager is really long. That's why usually, there is a DevRel team which can contain roles like developer marketers, technical writers, community managers, developer advocates and developer relations lead. Sometimes, companies start with hiring a developer advocate, and then grow the team from that point.
What should you do in your first 30 days as a Developer Relations Manager to set yourself up for success?
Congratulations! You just landed a new role as a Developer Relations Manager.
Now it's time to learn more about the company, product, and stakeholders. Before you start exploring these topics, make sure you receive a proper onboarding. Considering that your role is at the intersection of technology, business, product, marketing, and sales – it's worth knowing the company inside out.
What to do next? Michael points 5 things you should focus on together with your Team:
- Understand the business well
- Start building relationships
- Get to know the product inside and out
- Focus on developer experience (and experiment on yourself)
- Learn everything about existing developer community
Understand the business well
As a DevRel manager, you should be aware of the business strategy of the company in general, but should also know about specific plans related to product development and marketing.
Good understanding of how the company's products fit into the overall market might also be helpful for you to create long-term goals and roadmap for developer relations team.
Start with understanding the bigger picture of your company:
- What are the company's goals? Where do they want to be in a year or two?
- What is the company's strategy for achieving those goals?
- How does the Developer Relations team fit into that strategy?
- What are the key metrics that the company is tracking?
- Who are the key stakeholders in the company?
Micheal points, that it's essential to look for a North Star – a metric, that focuses everyone in the Team on one goal. If there is none, set one together with your developer relations team.
Start building relationships
Relations are the key in your Developer Relations job :) Not only the ones with developers, but also with the internal teams and stakeholders.
Start with scheduling 1-on-1s with your developer relations team members (if there are any) to obtain a snapshot of current activities, passions, and ideas on how to improve.
Schedule calls with Marketing manager, New business or Sales managers, Customer Support, Developer Advocate – they all have the closest contact with customers, they know their pain points, questions, needs. You should be in close contact with these teams, exchanging feedback and insights constantly.
And finally, focus on yourself and the expectations about your role. Meet with key stakeholders internally and make sure you fully understand their expectations and share what you may need from them to be successful in your developer relations role. Make sure they know what developer relations is and how it can impact business goals.
Get to know the product inside and out
It is critical to be an expert on what you are representing to developers. Meet with Product Managers and learn as much as possible about the developer journey. Try to understand:
The personas your product is meant for:
- Who is the ideal client?
- What are their pain points, and how does the product address them?
What differentiation your product from competitors:
- Which features are your moats and differentiators.
How the developer journey looks like:
- How do developers evaluate your product?
- What is the product adoption?
- What causes churn?
- How does your product scale?
What are the plans:
- What roadmap looks like?
- What are the initiatives product team is discovering or considering implementing in the future?
Focus on developer experience (and experiment on yourself)
In Product Management world they call it "Eat you own dog food" test, Michael named it "Staple yourself to..." test. The goals are simple – to experience the product, same as your users, and learn how it's actually used.
For example, starting from the company's home page, follow the links and annotate each step from zero to the equivalent of “hello world”. How many of these steps you noted? How was your experience? Was there something missing, unclear, redundant?
If, in order to reach "hello world", you need to contact Customer Support, read dozens of documentation pages and pray to software development gods for mercy – you definitely have something to work on.
Now, find two of your biggest competitors and do the same test. What did that experience feel like vs. your own company?
Additionally, try to establish a technical readiness checklist for yourself and members of the developer relations team. Aggregate and analyze that data to determine technical strengths of your product and where gaps are.
Learn everything about existing developer community
Developer community is the vital part of developer relations. It's often a source of really valuable insights about your product, issues with it and information, how the product is actually used.
Focus on understanding how the community works for your company – meet with the community manager and chat about current activities, challenges, and plans. Important thing to gather is also feedback from community members for the past 3-6 months. It'll help you to identify trends in developer interactions.
Try to find out if your company already invests in developer advocacy. Is there any developer advocacy program for community members? How does it work? If in your community, there is any individual contributor who invests their time in advocating for your product – meet with them and understand motivations, needs.
Start building relationships with the developers in your community. Introduce yourself and make sure to create a space, where they can share feedback, concerns, and chat with you about your plans.
Get out there and get in touch with as many developers as possible. Attend meetups, organize events, and generally make yourself available to answer any questions developers might have. External developers, who build with your product daily, are the extension of your team – use it wisely.
Keep an open mind and make sure you are constantly learning
In a role where there is so much going on, and there are many perspectives from which we view it is important to be flexible and open to feedback. Be prepared to adjust your plans as you get feedback from the developer community. Be flexible and able to change course based on what developers are actually looking for.
Especially in the first 30 days, don't worry about communicating too much, asking too many questions or asking someone for help too often. This is your opportunity to capture data points and insights, to make sure any strategies you put in place are not based on guesswork.
Bonus: Imposter syndrome in developer relations
Imposter syndrome is the belief that you are not qualified to do the job you are doing, despite evidence to the contrary. Especially in the first 30 days in a new DevRel role, this can be a common feeling. The best way to combat imposter syndrome is to focus on your strengths and the value that you bring to the table. Remember that you were hired for a reason.
What are some tips for dealing with imposter syndrome as a developer relations manager?
- Remember that you were hired for a reason.
- Focus on your strengths.
- Remember that everyone has different strengths and weaknesses.
- Seek mentors and individuals who can help you build your confidence.
- Take the time to celebrate your successes.